July 14, 2005

Mark 5:1-20 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

Mark 5:1-20
(July 3, 2005, Sermon Notes)

There are a number of unique elements in the story about the man with the legion. First, Jesus casts out, not just one but a legion of demons. Second, the word legion has special connotations. And third, this exorcism takes place outside of Galilee. As Jesus showed His power over the nations by calming the storm at sea, He again demonstrates His power to advance God’s kingdom by calming this walking storm on Gentile turf.


Jesus is in the Decapolis (Greek: “ten cities”). In the past, this region belonged to Israel. But these cities — and even the Jews in them — had become Hellenized. They formed an alliance precisely because they didn’t want to be part of Israel; they wanted instead to maintain their identity as Greek cities.

The first person to meet Jesus is an extremely unclean man. He has an unclean spirit and lives in tombs. He’s naked, like an animal, and he’s self-destructive. In fact, he’s a living picture of apostate Israel (Isa. 65), and not all the high culture in Decapolis could bind or tame him.

The man falls at Jesus’ feet, recognizing His authority, and requests a policy of mutual neutrality. It turns out that this man has a legion of demons — possibly as many as 6000. The word “legion” is important. A legion is a Roman military unit. Israel thought Rome’s legions were the enemy and the Decapolis thought Rome’s legions would keep them safe. But this territory is really ruled by Satan and his legions. Satan’s legions, not Rome’s, are the real enemy.

The demons want to stay in the region and in a sense Jesus grants the request. There is a herd of pigs nearby, probably tended by Jews who have become so Hellenized they don’t mind being in contact with the pigs. Jesus sends the demons into the pigs and they rush into the sea and drown.

Jesus brought His followers safely through the sea but He drowns their enemies, like Pharaoh’s armies, in that sea. That’s a foretaste of the New Exodus Jesus will accomplish: He passes through the waters of judgment and brings us safely with Him (think of baptism) but He casts His and our enemies into the sea and drowns them.


Up to this point, there have been only two main characters in the story. But now we hear about the people of the region. The pig-herds report what happened and crowds gather. They see that the man who had the legion of demons is now cleansed and restored and they respond with fear. Just as the disciples were more afraid of Jesus calming the storm than of the storm itself, these people are more afraid of Jesus than they had been of the man when he had the legion of demons.

Then they hear more of the story — about the man, but also about the pigs. Jesus has destroyed a marketable product and these people love pigs more than they love this man. Besides, the destruction of the pigs makes it clear that Jesus is acting with the power of Israel’s God, the God of the Torah, the God from whom they wanted to liberate themselves.

Repentance hurts, and the people of this region refuse to repent. The demon begged Jesus not to sent them out of the country. But if they stay, Jesus must go. And now the people beg Jesus to leave.

He is rejected and that rejection foreshadows the end of the story when Jesus will take the place of the demon-possessed man, naked, isolated, outside the city, shouting incomprehensible things, cut by the stones in the Roman lash, and finally dead in the tomb. That is how the demons will finally be defeated.

Jesus withdraws, but He doesn’t abandon His plan to reclaim this territory. The man who had the legion begs to go with Jesus, but instead Jesus sends him to proclaim how “the Lord” had compassion on him. The man obeys, telling people what Jesus did, thereby identifying Jesus as “the Lord.”

Jesus has left behind a missionary, the first apostle to the Gentiles, and by his message King Jesus will begin to reconquer the Decapolis, as a foretaste of what He will do through His church in the world.

Posted by John Barach @ 8:58 pm | Discuss (0)

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